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Sabina: Remarkable Czech Women

Blog PostsAuthor: Sabina Gajda

The most beautiful city in the world, with narrow streets, amazing tenement houses, with a river and castle upon it – Prague. The city where everything starts. And the brave women, who lived here. They knew what they wanted and weren’t scared to reach for it. Destinnová, Horáková or Garrigue Masaryková are names, that maybe say nothing to you or you heard about them a little bit. But it’s important to know them. They lives showed that heroes don’t need to wear the cape or mask. Heroes are ordinary people, who live among us.

Outset of the greatness

Czech women made a great difference in the world and are being remembered until this day. Everything has started with Agnes of Bohemia, called also Agnes of Prague – a medieval Bohemian princess, who chose a life of charity, mortification of the body and piety instead of life of enjoyment and convenience. Although she was hallowed soon after her death, she had to wait over 700 years for being beatified or canonized. Ema Destinnová also left a mark. This Czech operatic diva sang for the New York Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden in London, and the Prague State Theatre. At one time in her career she became the highest paid soprano in the world. During World War I she had problems and her career started falling apart. It was because of the accusation of spying. She probably had secret messages stitched into her petticoats. This situation led to her house arrest. Her passport was revoked. She has never came back to the stage. As a tribute to her legacy, nowadays we can see Destinnová on the 2,000-CZK banknote. Another important person is Milena Jesenská. She translated the short story “The Stoker” – debut of Franz Kafka. Later the married Jesenská had an affair with Kafka. It is assumed that she took the pseudonym Jaroslav Dohal to be able to translate his later works. During World War II by joining the underground she was helping Jewish refugees to emigrate. Jesenská died at the Ravensbrück concentration camp for women due to the kidney failure. Another lady worth mentioning is Madeleine Albright, who was born in Prague and later become an American politician and diplomat. She is the first female United States Secretary of State in U.S. history.

Prague – the best place to start

But that’s not everything. Many of women, who were making a history, studied at Prague TOP 7 universities. Don’t believe that? Let mi give you a couple of examples… Let’s start with Milada Horáková, a lawyer, politician, and campaigner for the equivalent rights of women. She took part in the defiance toward the German occupation. She survived the Nazi’s inprisonment and ended up in prison anyway. Later Horáková was executed by the communist regime. It was due to the fabricated charges of conspiracy and betrayal. Before being hung at Prague’s Pankrác Prison she left behind many letter written by her that stand for crucial tracts on independent thought and democracy. In the 1990s she posthumously was rewarded with the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. Horáková studied law at Charles University. Another woman, which is essential to mention is Věra Chytilová – a film director known from her avangarde approach. She definitely could be described as a pioneer of Czech cinema. Banned by the Czechoslovak government in the 1960s, she is most recognizable for her Czech New Wave film, Sedmikrásky (Daisies). She studied directing at FAMU. Chytilová was accepted for studies as the only woman in the field at that time. Zdena Fibichová was a sculptor, pottery maker and painter. She was qualified as one of the boldest creators of sculptures after the World War II in Czechoslovakia. This field of artistry was mainly a discipline done by men. She studied at UMPRUM. Alice Garrigue Masaryková was a daughter of Charlotta Garrigue and Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. She studied philosophy, sociology and history at Charles University. Became a doctor as the fourth woman in the University history. Masaryková was a teacher, sociologist, and politician. She founded the Czechoslovak Red Cross. For a long time she was considered to be the original Czech feminist. The 1919 was a critical year. Alice Garrigue Masaryková was one of the first women elected as a member of the parliament of the Czechoslovakian Republic. Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk – her father – was the head of the state at that time. Masaryková was forced to a deportation during the German occupation. But she didn’t stop to support her fellow Czechoslovaks. She used to spoke constantly on Radio Free Europe from the States, inspiring people from Czechoslovakia to remain dedicated in their struggle for democracy.

It‘s not the end – actually it‘s the beginning

The Czech women were making the history, but even if they already passed away, nowadays there are still remarkable women, who didn’t stop to make impact and show the true feminine power. Kateřina Tučková is one of them. She is a novelist and curator. Her best known book is called ‘Žítkovské bohyně‘ (The Goddesses of Žítková) and was translated into 13 languages. If you like Czech prose, she is definitely an author worth giving a try. I bet you won’t regret it. In 2014 she got a PhD at The Institute of Art History at Charles University in Prague. Thereafter Lucie Vondráčková is a popular singer and theatre and film actress. She has been awarded different prizes many times. She studied Culturology at Charles University and earned a PhD in Philosophy in 2006. Last but not least is Eva Jiřičná – an architect and designer. Her works focus on paying attention to details. She creates in a distinctly modern style. She is best known for her steel and glass staircases. In 1996 she became the head of the Department of Architecture at the University of Applied Arts in Prague. Jiřičná studied architecture at Czech Technical University. On the 29th of January 2019 Jiřičná received the Honorary Doctorate Degree (honoris causa) from the Rector of the Czech Technical University.

Women for a very long time have been considered as the weaker sex. Finally, equal rights, which ladies like Masaryková or Horáková were fighting for, nowadays are implemented. Humankind already sees that masculinity doesn’t exist without femininity and the same is with the opposite. Women have inner power, which can be used on many levels. Without any power, changing the world wouldn’t be possible. Which place is the best to start then, you may ask? If you want to become a future leader, Universities in Prague give you many opportunities.